A public high school textbook released this fall is about
addressing the loss of Bible literacy--and it's designed to meet
"We went in with our eyes wide open. We knew what the issues were
and we created a product that would be acceptable," says Sheila
Weber, about The Bible and Its Influence, released by the Bible
Literacy Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group in Fairfax, Va.
"I think [district administrators] have unwarranted fear about the
issue of religion and public schools and need to realize this is the
proper solution to handle these issues. There is a gap in American
public education. This is not about religion. This is about
education," says Weber, the group's vice president of
Last spring, the project released a national report that indicated
English teachers say a student's lack of Bible knowledge is harming
their ability to understand literature, art, music and history.
Weber points out that Shakespeare alone has more than 1,300 biblical
To avoid any legal trouble, the textbook fulfills standards of The
Bible and Public Schools, a guide on how to teach the Bible in
public schools co-published by the Bible Literacy Project and the
First Amendment Center.
The textbook also meets the standard of Charles Haynes, a senior
scholar at the First Amendment Center. "This new textbook, while not
perfect, is constitutionally and educationally sound," he says. "It
includes a variety of perspectives on how to interpret the Bible.
The material is presented objectively and fairly in ways that
neither promote nor denigrate religion."
Not everyone agrees. "The book generally fails to note that the
Bible has ... been used to justify slavery, hang witches, promote
the oppression of women, attack interracial marriage and persecute
gays," says Jeremy Leaming, spokesman for The Americans United for
Separation of Church and State.
He suggests it would be better to offer an elective in comparative
religion rather than focus on one tradition.